As a career-changer myself, your blog has proven incredibly insightful in the process of applying to vet school. While I have many years of animal experience at a nearby aquarium, I am desperately lacking in direct vet experience. I saw that you got some vet experience with the Vida Volunteer program. Through my travels to Indonesia, I have become a huge proponent of international spay/neuter programs and am considering the Vida program myself. How was your experience there? Did you consider other international organizations such as World Vets or African Conservation Experience? Also, do you think your Vida experience helped you more than your humane society experience with getting into school?
It’s also good to hear that you still have time to rock climb as a vet student. I can’t imagine giving up climbing….
Thanks for your input,
Hi D –
My experience with VIDA was mixed. While my first trip (when VIDA was still getting their feet off the ground) was really focused on providing care to animals in need in extremely impoverished areas, it was lacking in terms of the “fun” aspect – trips and activities outside of clinics. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed as I cared most about the clinics, but it felt like a bit of false advertising as they boast on their website about zip lining, white water rafting and other fun activities. The clinics themselves were very rudimentary. Once you get past the premise that nothing you do is going to be sterile, you’ll be fine (and remembering that these animals have survived thus far, so they must be pretty hardy doesn’t hurt either). Other than that, the only things I disliked were the fact that they used plastic zip ties to ligate during dog spays and one of the vets was extremely difficult to work with.
My second experience with VIDA was with UC Davis vet students. There was more “fun” scheduled but I felt that our time there was less meaningful. We had 3 small animal clinics and 2 large animal clinics. The 3 small animal clinics were great despite the fact that VIDA was still using zip ties for spays (though I outright refused to do so when I was the surgeon). The large animal clinics frustrated me beyond belief because we were staying at an enormous hacienda owned by a veterinarian in Costa Rica (who had enough money to have his own airplane landing strip on his property). The veterinarian was a great guy, but we spent our time working on his cattle for the most part. That really took the meaning out of the work as I was personally in Central America to help animals in need, who would otherwise not receive veterinary care…and that was truly not the case with the large animal clinics.
I chose VIDA because I had heard about it, I didn’t really know about other options…and I had a very tight budget! I had minimal experience as it was, so it was great for that purpose. And, truth be told, my interview at Davis was predominantly centered around my experience with VIDA. Do I think that it mattered more than my shelter experience? Not really. It was something new that the admissions committee could add to my application and that demonstrated that I was still working towards this goal and wasn’t just sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting to find out whether I was accepted or not.
I hope that helps! …and yes, it’s important not to give up the things that matter most to you when you are in vet school…they keep you grounded and help preserve your sanity.
Best of luck!
Life In Vet School & Tips On Getting In